Myanmar Religious, Political Figures Respond to Perceived Threat of Military Coup

By Nyein Nyein 28 January 2021

After the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) spokesman’s refusal to rule out the possibility of coup during a press conference in Naypyitaw on Tuesday, the public has loudly responded that such a course of action would be in violation of the Constitution the military itself drafted.

At a press conference in which the military repeated its claims of electoral fraud in the Nov. 8 voting, a reporter asked whether the Tatmadaw’s vow to comply with the law meant that the military had no plan to seize power.

The spokesman’s response was: “No.”

That refusal to rule out a coup has been interpreted by many as a threat. At the very least, it has raised eyebrows over the possibility that the military is actually considering such action.

The spokesman insisted throughout his remarks that the armed forces “will abide by existing laws including the Constitution.” He added, “But that doesn’t mean the military will take responsibility for the state or won’t take responsibility for the state.”

Prominent political and religious leaders, lawmakers and a legal expert interviewed by The Irrawaddy unanimously said the military-drafted 2008 Constitution does not allow any scenario for a coup, and should one occur, the controversial charter would automatically become null and void.

Their perspectives on the spokesman’s remarks, and what it would mean if there were a coup, follow.

Rev Dr. Hkalam Samson – President, Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC)

Rev Dr. Hkalam Samson

Although the military spokesman did not say directly that there would be a coup or no coup, he repeatedly said [the military] would act in accordance with the law and the Constitution if the election fraud claims are not solved. I am concerned because it is like a threat or a political warning, and it could affect the national reconciliation process.

I think the spokesman should not even say [such a thing], because if there were a coup, Myanmar would not be able to move forward. The National League for Democracy government has the public’s support, so did the Union Solidarity and Development Party [when it held office.]

We all must cooperate to achieve peace and to build a democratic federal system. “Coup” is a bitter word that we don’t want to hear.

Al Haj U Aye Lwin – Chief convener, Islamic Centre of Myanmar (ICM)

Al Haj U Aye Lwin

The military spokesman avoided using the word “coup” in his answer, but he focused on whether [the military would be] taking responsibility for the state or not.  The military had raised the issue of election fraud and maybe they want to show off that they have some force behind their demand, [implying] “This is no joke” or they could [stage a coup] if they want.

But this contradicts what he said: “The military will abide by the existing law and the Constitution,” which is the mother of the law.

At the same time, the military appointees are preparing to attend the upcoming Parliament, showing their participation.

Sai Nyunt Lwin – Vice chairman, Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD)

Sai Nyunt Lwin

I don’t think the military plans to stage a coup, as they say they abide by the Constitution and respect their own charter, which does not allow for staging a coup. Even in an emergency situation, the President must give approval for the military’s entitlement to administer a certain region.

Daw Htoot May – Upper House parliamentarian, Rakhine Ethnic Affairs Minister-elect for Yangon Region

Daw Htoot May

Staging a coup is not a good sign for the country. Therefore, I think the military—which is already involved in politics through the legislature with its 25 percent of reserved seats—won’t do it. With this 25 percent, we already have faced many obstacles to reform efforts in the country.

Besides, following the previous military coups, we fell behind in the world in terms of politics, economic development and peace, and there was no advantage for the people.

Therefore, staging a coup means the return of those bad conditions and I don’t think the military, which has been in power in this country, would return to this past.

U Thein Than Oo – Advocate, general secretary, Independent Lawyers’ Association of Myanmar (ILAM)

U Thein Than Oo

What the military spokesman said is like a threat. It is not helpful for national reconciliation. He should not say it. And in history, the army did not announce [it was going] to stage a coup either.

If there were a coup, the 2008 Constitution would be invalidated. The current controversy under this charter proves that it is useless. As the current charter should be nullified, we should start to draft a new Constitution.

U Pe Than – Lower House parliamentarian from Arakan National Party (ANP)

U Pe Than

A coup won’t happen as long as the military abides by the Constitution, which does not allow staging a coup. And the military spokesman insisted [it intended to abide by the Constitution] and [that the military is] the defender of the Constitution. But the military keeps pushing [the argument that] the NLD [National League for Democracy]’s actions are unconstitutional. So it could mean that they are showing off their power that if the military wants and feels it needs to, it would [stage a coup].

If the military did stage a coup, it would be very foolish.

Cardinal Charles Bo – Archbishop of Yangon

Cardinal Charles Bo

To all civilian and military leaders, I plead lay aside the futile pursuit of military solutions. You each have the capacity to transform Myanmar’s divisive political culture. Renew your commitment to face the truths of our past history. Acknowledging these realities, seek justice with courage and determination through dialogue and negotiation.  Peace will only come if a spirit of transparent, open and accountable leadership is instilled into every sector and level of governance.

History teaches us, diplomats and peacemakers know, that there is never going to be a military solution to a political conflict. Pursuing military solutions leads only to endless war, endless misery. Myanmar has had enough! Where a political solution is absent, any military advantage is fragile.

The call to each of us, especially to those with the responsibility of leadership, is to be artisans of peace—uniting and not dividing, extinguishing hatred and not harboring or inflaming it, always opening paths of dialogue that will reconcile, heal, unite and build anew our beautiful Myanmar.

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